News Column

Virginia Rometty: IBM's 1st Female CEO

Oct. 27, 2011

Brendan Lynch

Virginia Rometty
Virginia Rometty

IBM's decision to name its first female CEO drew widespread praise yesterday from experts who expect the transition at the 100-year-old tech giant to be smooth.

Virginia Rometty, 54, an executive vice president who has been with IBM since 1981, will succeed Samuel Palmisano, 60, who will continue as chairman.

Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Kanter has known Rometty for about 10 years through consulting work for IBM.

She said Rometty was a key player in the company's shift from hardware to "cloud" computing services under Palmisano, and was behind IBM's $3.5 billion acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting.

"She has a background in engineering, yet she's worked on the business side and been concerned with customers," Kanter said. "That's a tremendous combination."

Kanter expected the transition to be smooth.

JP Morgan's equity research analysts agreed, writing in an alert about the change that investors should "expect more of the same, which is a good thing."

"In contrast to other tech companies, we do not expect much operations risk with the IBM CEO transition," JP Morgan analysts wrote. "In our view, Mr. Palmisano and his team have steadily built IBM into the leading one-stop IT solutions shop. We do not think there is an identity crisis at IBM."

Toni Wolfman, executive-in-residence at Bentley University's Center for Women and Business, said large technology companies often lead the way on hiring women to executive positions, citing Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and recently appointed Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman.

"It sends a message to mostly male companies," she said. "It says, 'Look, here are these terrific women, what's the matter with you guys?'"

Source: (c) 2011 the Boston Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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